Texas Gov. Rick Perry boasted about Tarleton State University's "affordable" and "accessible" education during his recent visit to campus, and his words were more than political rhetoric offered on the campaign trail.

For years, Tarleton has worked hard to drive down the cost of a competitive college degree putting higher education within reach for high school graduates across North Central Texas.

This fall the affordability of a four-year bachelor's degree from Tarleton will rank 16th out of the 38 Texas public universities, according to the Texas Higher Education coordinating board. An incoming freshman will pay about $19,661, just less than the statewide average, for a four-year degree at the main campus in Stephenville. Tarleton is the largest university in the top tier of college affordability in the state, Tarleton officials point out.

In late July, several Dallas/Fort Worth area colleges such as University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas announced plans for students to earn a bachelor's degree for less than $10,000, a program Tarleton has been offering at its Southwest Metroplex campus in Fort Worth for years.

"In a sense it's been available for a long time, even though we haven't packaged and publicized it that way until the state directed public universities to develop degree offerings that cost less than $10,000," said Dr. Dwayne Snider, associate vice president for academic affairs.

Similar low-cost programs are offered at different prices at Tarleton's University Center on the McClennan County Community College campus in Waco and a campus in Midlothian that opened last year in partnership with Navarro Junior College.

Students earn college credit through junior college courses or specialized technical training received while working in management positions and advanced industries such as aerospace, then complete advanced coursework with Tarleton.

The 10K degree plan is not offered in Stephenville, but Tarleton officials said through partnerships with area junior colleges, students can earn their degree for significantly less than other schools.

Students can earn certain medical certifications and associates degrees through Tarleton at Weatherford College.

Course work from most Texas public university's can be easily transferred to other state institutions, which is how some students who cannot afford a full four years or do not meet initial admission requirements at Tarleton begin their college career.

"We have a great relationship with Ranger College," Snider said. "They teach a wide range of introductory courses in Stephenville that students complete there before transferring to Tarleton."

While some universities raise tuition and fees significantly each year, Tarleton attempts to keep a college education affordable, while battling rising costs.

"We've tried to hold the line on tuition and fee increases to the extent of maintaining competitive degrees," Snider said. "There have been times we could have gone up to make things easier, but we have chosen not to."